Murphy, please go home
When I was young and it seemed like one thing after another broke at the house, my parents would talk about how they wished the gremlin would go find someone else’s house to play in. After one particularly bad stretch of luck — the refrigerator door handle came off, the air conditioner broke and the sink backed up and all on the same day — my mother actually made grabbing motions in the middle of the kitchen and marched out to the back fence and tossed her imaginary gremlin over the fence. If that wasn’t odd enough for a tween to watch, hearing her usually level-headed mother yell at the gremlin not to come back certainly was. Of course, when the neighbor whose yard she had tossed the “gremlin” into started complaining about things breaking down all of a sudden, we just looked at one another and tried not to burst out laughing.
That gremlin was Murphy, he of the bad luck fame. It is clear he has decided to track us down again. It doesn’t matter that years have passed since he last wreaked such havoc on the family. It certainly doesn’t appear to matter that we have moved — heck, I’ve moved at least four times since then. No, with the tracking ability of the best trained drug dog, he has taken up residency again and I am ready for him to leave. Bad enough he broke the garbage disposal (and man have those gone up in price since the last time I replaced one). Then it was my 13 month old iPad. Firmly and carefully encased in the best protective case I could find, it dropped three feet and the screen shattered in a zillion pieces.
Color me not happy but I could live. I used the iPad mainly to research while writing. I could transfer that over to the Kindle Fire or the Surface Pro 3. At least when I wasn’t at my desk and could simply hook the laptop up to multiple monitors. Noooo problem. Right?
Last week, the Fire HDX, 121/2 months after purchase but still under extended warranty, started acting up. Upon waking it would sometimes give me a blank screen or only half a screen. Sometimes everything would be all right. A soft reboot would send my saves in my e-books back two to three days minimum. But only on the Fire. If I checked on the laptop or the Surface Pro 3, the e-book would open to exactly where I’d left off. And then there was the wonderful overlay screen that would come up and tell me I was in full screen mode. Sometimes I could dismiss it and sometimes I couldn’t.
So, multiple phone calls to Amazon on Saturday and then they call me Sunday. They have the solution. There is the wonderful new software update that will “solve all the problems they are having with their Fire HDXs.” I kid you not. That is what the tech who called me said. Only one problem. Murphy’s cousin was visiting Amazon at the time and the webpage I had to go to in order to download the new update came up with an error message. Let me tell you, the tech really went into a tailspin then.
Fast forward to yesterday and the main reason for this rambling post. The update was finally available for download. Like a good customer, and because I was making copious notes and mad enough to call if anything went wrong, I downloaded the update and side-loaded it into my Fire HDX. Then I waited as it installed. So far, so good. Installation completed and I opened up the book I’d been reading.
And that is when things went downhill fast.
Murphy has now become a frigging programmer for Amazon. Worse, he is one who did not think about the impact of what he has done. You see, with the new update, there is a “feature” that is added to the Kindle app that “helps” you by offering to let you buy the next book in the series or buy the Audible version of the book so “you can listen along while you read”. I kid you not.
They have now put ads into their app and, glory of glories — not!, when you happen to activate the ad, it drops down from the top of the page and will cover up to 4 lines of text. Talk about throwing you out of the book. Oh, and it doesn’t disappear until you tap the page again and dismiss it.
So, yes, your Mad Genius, one of the Redheads of Doom, once again called Amazon. No, this is not something that can be turned off. It is a “feature”. No, it doesn’t cover the text. Oooh, sorry, it does. But we can’t do anything about it. No, we can’t roll your kindle back to the previous OS.
Head, meet desk.
As a reader, this pisses me off to no end. For one thing, I don’t want narration AS I’M READING. For another, if I accidentally tap the middle of the page, I don’t want an ad popping up to throw me out of the plot. But there is another issue that really bothers me. I paid to remove the “special offers” from my Fire. Why? Because I didn’t want ads. Now, even though I paid, I am getting ad. But, according to Amazon, these aren’t ads but are “additional features”.
From and author standpoint, it bothers me even more. I don’t want readers to think that I’ve authorized this sort of ad. I didn’t. I wasn’t consulted and, to the best of my knowledge, I’m not going to get any additional monies for purchases made through this new “feature”. It isn’t like clicking on an Amazon Associates link and making a purchase which will give me a very small percentage of the sales price. This is pure profit for Amazon.
More on that in a moment.
But it still not only violates the spirit of asking customers to pay to remove the special offers but, worse, it will upset our readers who, very possibly, blame us for this unwanted distraction. I don’t know about you but I’min the business of trying to keep my readers happy, not to upset them.
I don’t mind Amazon making a profit. It’s a huge corporation and it has to make money in order to continue doing what it does best. I appreciate all it has done to help indie authors and I have never been one to jump onto the Amazon Hater Bandwagon. But this is one of Amazon’s most boneheaded decisions in a very long time. I get wanting to direct customers to the next book in the series. But guess what, Amazon already does that with the page that pops up at the end of any e-book directing customers to where they can rate the book they’ve just finished and where they can see what else the author has for sale. The same sort of thing could be done for the Audible links. Heck, Amazon could include that information in what it gives in the popup that appears when you first open a book. It isn’t something that has to appear each and every time you happen to tap a page, whether by accident, to check your progress in the book or to be able to look up a word in the dictionary.
Add in a tear in my Achilles tendon and related problems that had caused and, well, Murphy the Gremlin can go visit someone else. I have books to write and it is hard to do when my tech keeps breaking and my body decides it needs to scream in pain.
So, does anyone know a good Gremlin extermination service they’d be willing to recommend?